Recently my wife received an email from a customer service rep at a car company. The email went something like this:

Hey Jennifer,

Quick favor. You’re going to get an email from us with a survey attached. I really need you to give me all 10’s on the survey. Can you let me know if there was anything that occurred during your visit that would keep you from giving me all 10’s. If there is something that would keep you from giving me all 10’s, I’d like to fix it so you can give me a 10 in all areas of the survey.

There are about 780 things wrong with this approach. Over the next few posts, I’ll examine some them. In this post though, a little background information on this whole, “will you give me all 10’s business” might be helpful.

The customer service rep -who sent the email- is not a rogue employee with an overactive ego in need of stroking . Over the last decade, the “how can I get you to give me all 10’s” approach has grown significantly. Maybe you’ve experienced it as well.

Almost 10 years ago, Fred Reichheld wrote, The Ultimate Question. Here’s the blurb from Amazon about the book.


CEOs regularly announce ambitious growth targets, then fail to achieve them. The reason? Their growing addiction to bad profits. These corporate steroids boost short-term earnings but alienate customers. They undermine growth by creating legions of detractors – customers who complain loudly about the company and switch to competitors at the earliest opportunity. Based on extensive research, “The Ultimate Question” shows how companies can rigorously measure Net Promoter statistics, help managers improve them, and create communities of passionate advocates that stimulate innovation. Vivid stories from leading-edge organizations illustrate the ideas in practice. Practical and compelling, this is the one book – and the one tool – no growth-minded leader can afford to miss.


So basically, Reichheld realized that people who actively promote brands (net promoters) are the same people who answer survey questions with 9’s or 10’s. Further, receiving 9’s and 10’s on one particularl question is critical. That question: How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family members. Here’s a 2003 HBR article written by Reichheld about his work.  To be fair, Reichheld has continued to refine his work and now has a new version of it entitled, The net promoter system. Check it out here. 

What’s important for this musing is to understand that a brand’s net promoter score (the number that tells you how many people evangelize your brand) is an important number for success AND for continuous improvement efforts.

Reichheld’s “ultimate question” theory made a big splash in the biz world. And then, as with many other theories, people started messing with it in an attempt to create shortcuts to greatness. And that’s where the email my wife received comes back into the story. You can probably already see possible dysfunctions in the approach. I’ll muse-on about a few of them in upcoming posts.